Friday, February 15, 2008

Today’s Video: Orange drink!

After spending countless times replaying and laughing at the following 1980s Venezuelan (I think) ad for Kool-Aid, three things stick out in my mind:

  1. The terribly fluorescent clothing won by the kids as well as the bike helmets and gloves. (Safety first!)
  2. Their comically overjoyed (too much sugar?) reaction to the appearance of Señor Kool-Aid.
  3. How his baritone voice inexplicably gives way to a castrato-like falsetto reminiscent of Morrissey signing the last thirty seconds of The Smiths’ “What Difference Does It Make?

(Video link):

Speaking of everyone’s favorite fey English cult hero, do you know which U.S. presidential candidate he supports? (Hint: It isn’t Mike Huckabee).

(Hat tip:

Sources-, YouTube, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Morrissey-solo,

Brazil OKs GMO corn

The Brazilian government gave its stamp of approval to the selling of genetically modified corn (GMC). The country’s National Biosafety Council would permit the usage of two forms of GMC produced by Monsanto and Bayer called MON810 and LibertyLink, respectively.

The decision was met with resistance from environmental groups which claimed that the accepted GMCs are unsafe:

A Brazilian rural group, Via Campesina, reacted with fury to the announcement, saying it went against the advice of two governmental agencies: the health ministry's ANVISA health vigilance unit, and the environmental ministry's Ibama institute.

Via Campesina said in a statement that the companies behind the engineered corn had presented studies that were "completely inadequate and insufficient to guarantee the safety of these products in terms of human health."

It said it also feared the man-made seeds would contaminate natural crops, with unpredictable results for the environment.

Via Campesina may have a point; last week French officials banned MON810 after a watchdog group said it had “serious doubts” over the GMC's safety.


Sources- Bloomberg, AFP, Reuters,

Argies, Brazilians court ExxonMobil

Oil giant ExxonMobil may be in a well-publicized spat with the Venezuelan government, yet that has not stopped an Argentine-Brazilian consortium from bidding for the firm’s Latin American assets. Yesterday it was reported that Argentine conglomerate Eurnekian in association with Brazil's GP Investimentos offered $2 billion to ExxonMobil:

[Argentine newspaper Clarin] cited Eurnekian associate Ernesto Gutierrez, who spoke with a reporter following a meeting at Government Palace with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

"We told President Cristina Kirchner about the offer we are making," Gutierrez was quoted as saying. "We are going in association with the Brazilian group GP Investimentos," he added.

Reports that Exxon wants to sell its refinery and service station assets in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay surfaced last year, although company officials have declined to comment on the matter.

Despite the problems between ExxonMobil and the Chavez administration, Reuters mentioned that Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) is also interested in buying ExxonMobil’s Latin American assets.

Thus far, the price of a barrel of oil has shot up by nearly a dollar to $96.38 in trading today due to anxiety over problems in Venezuela and Nigeria according to AFP.

Sources- the Latin Americanist, AFP, MarketWatch, Reuters

Image- Los Angeles Times

The Black Vs. Latino Immigration Debate Continues

While Latinos as a group aren't mentioned directly, it's pretty clear that is the immigrant group being targeted. Featured in the video is Dr. Frank Morris, former Congressional Black Caucus Foundation member.

Is this a real debate or does it just cover up some of the real issues in terms of employment and wages? Is this an example of divide and conquer gone terribly wrong?

Source : American

Virtual Border Fence to Get the Green Light

After some initial problems with contractor Boeing Co. because the technology the company used in the test project near Tucson, Arizona, did not work properly, the prospect of having a 28 mile long virtual fence along part of the U.S. / Mexico border is becoming more real.
Chertoff saw the fence during a trip to Arizona last week.
"I think it looks good," he told lawmakers. The department has not yet made the official acceptance.
The scarier idea is that some of the technology: radar, sensor devices and cameras capable of distinguishing people from cattle at a distance of about 10 miles, could be used on other parts along the border.

Source: CNN

Daily Headlines: February 15, 2008

* Over 100 celebrities including David Beckham, Ricky Martin, and Penelope Cruz have publicly backed Alejandro Sanz [image] in his dispute with the Venezuelan government.

* Did illegal loggers kill as many as fifteen natives in the Ecuadorian rainforest?

* Coca-Cola’s fourth-quarter profit grew higher than expected partly due to increased sales in Latin America.

* Approximately 4000 people demanding easier access to yellow fever vaccinations blockaded a highway in Paraguay.

* Follow-up: Mounting delays in handling immigration applications in the U.S. have forced officials to try to streamline the process for seeking a green card.

Sources- MSNBC, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Bloomberg

Image- Typically Spanish

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cuba to U.S.: Return Guantanamo to us

The U.S. prison at the Guantanamo Bay military base should be closed and returned to Cuba, according to a senior official on the island. In remarks made to reporters today, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said the following:

Cuba rejects "the violation of human rights, unjust incarceration of prisoners held there without charges, and their appearance in courts without guarantees and in which they are convicted in advance,'' he told reporters…

"We demand again the closure of the indecent Guantanamo prison, the return of the territory illegally occupied to our fatherland,'' Perez Roque said.

Whit House spokeswoman Dana Perino remarked yesterday that the U.S. has no permanent military bases around the world with the sole exception of Guantanamo Bay.

Cuba and the U.S. originally agreed to the lease of Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. military via changes to the Platt Amendment in 1934. The current Cuban regime refuses to recognize the lease though the land cannot be returned to Cuba unless the base where abandoned or by mutual consent of both governments.

Sources- Melbourne Herald Sun, SBS, Wikipedia, AFP, NPR


Guatemala: Death penalty to be restored

Guatemala’s federal legislature overwhelmingly approved a proposal that would end a six-year moratorium on executions. The bill would allow the president to decide on the fate of thirty “death row” prisoners by either commuting their sentences or by giving the green light to execution via lethal injection.

President Alvaro Colom- who was inaugurated last month- is expected to sign the bill into law despite his opposition to the death penalty. In the meantime, human rights groups like Amnesty International are unhappy with the proposal’s approval:

In an open letter sent [on Wednesday], Amnesty International urged Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom not to reinstate the death penalty and instead to look for more effective and lasting solutions to the public security crisis affecting the country.

Just two months ago, Guatemala voted for a global moratorium on executions at the United Nations. "President Álvaro Colom must now respect this commitment," said Sebastian Elgueta, researcher for Guatemala at Amnesty International. “Guatemala must turn its back to this archaic practice and join the overwhelming majority of countries that have already done so.”

Sources- Amnesty International, AHN, BBC News, IPS, FOX News, JURIST

Image- MSNBC

Latinos dig science

Latin Americans show a high interest in science, according to survey results released last week at the Ibero American Citizenship and Public Policies in Science and Technology meeting in Madrid.

Citizens interviewed in six cities -- Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Santiago, Sao Paulo and Panamá City -- responded "very interested" in science with at least a 60 percent rate.

However, the way these potential techies receive their scientific fix differs. Most said television is the most important source of scientific information, although other answers ranged from documentaries to science stories.

Get the article here.



Obama adds Latin American flair to stump

Barack Obama spoke to a Virginia high school about how he disagrees with Chavez's policies in Venezuela and ignorance of the region in general.

"We ignore Latin America at our own peril," Obama told the crowd, adding that he intends to visit these countries to talk about human rights, freedom of the press and political prisoners in Cuba.

The Democratic presidential candidate also spoke about establishing mutual respect.

Watch the video here.

Source and Photo: Huffington Post

Today’s Video: Every rose has its thorn

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day of appreciating friendships and romance. One of the most common and tender gifts to give are freshly cut flowers such as roses. However, the process in picking and sorting the flowers is difficult and more so in order to fill the demand in the U.S. and Europe.

While we don’t wish to be a killjoy on Valentine’s Day, it’s important to note that workers laboring in greenhouses in countries like Colombia and Ecuador often endure hardships. The following video is in Spanish and made by a Colombian labor group. They recognize Valentine’s Day but also promote February 14th as “Flower Workers Day.”

(Video link):

Sources- Reuters, Guardian UK, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: February 14, 2008

* “The choice is between a future of integration and success for both, or a future of distrust and resentment between us” said Mexican president Felipe Calderon yesterday at a speech in front of California legislators [image].

* France and Brazil came to an arms agreement that would allow French fighter planes to be built in the South American country.

* General Motors may have posted strong sales in Latin America but that hasn’t stopped the company from suffering a $39 billion loss in the last quarter.

* Nearly 200 people were arrested in Panama after police clashed with protestors upset over unsafe construction site conditions.

Sources- Associated Press, Sydney Morning Herald, Reuters

Image- CNN

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

John McCain Shouldn't Expect Fidel Castro's Endorsement

Republican U.S. Presidential wannabe John McCain is doing pretty well in the primaries but he shouldn't expect any love from Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who is accusing him of lying about Cubans torturing American prisoners of war in Vietnam.
At a campaign stop in Miami last month, the Arizona senator told anti-Castro exiles that American POWs held with him in Hanoi were tortured by "a couple of Cubans."

"His accusation against the Cuban revolutionaries ... are completely unethical," Castro wrote in an article published by the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma.

"The commandments of the religion you practice prohibit lying," he said of McCain, who was raised an Episcopalian and calls himself a Christian.
Fidel has publicly said that he would love to see a Clinton/Obama ticket.

Sources : NYT and Reuters

Barack Obama Esta Hablando a Tejas.

After Barack Obama's win yesterday in the Potomac primaries, his campaign is focusing on the Latino community in Texas with a Spanish language radio ad explaining why Obama should appeal to Latino voters there. Listen to the ad/read the ad here.

Sources : VivirLatino and Time Magazine

Daily Headlines: February 13, 2008

* Bolivia has been declared a “national disaster” after extensive flooding has killed over 60 people and left more than 40,000 homeless.

* The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ray Sanchez examines who could be the successor to Raul Castro in Cuba if he should decide to step down later this month.

* A suspected kidnapper was stoned to death by an angry mob in Haiti.

* The U.S. prosecutes involved in the “Maletagate” case may be forced to testify in Venezuela.

Sources- South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Associated Press, Bloomberg, BBC News

Image- BBC News

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today's Video: Jackie O en español

We featured the following video last August, but it’s worth mentioning it again in light of the necessity most presidential hopefuls have to create Spanish-language ads. (Exhibits A and B).

Once again, here’s Jackie Kennedy stumping en español for then-candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960:

Sources- YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Mexico: New dinosaur species found

Scientists discovered fossils of a new type of dinosaur in Mexico which could provide insight into the dinosaurs that roamed the North American continent. The species- Velafrons coahuilensis- was a duck-billed dinosaur that lived roughly 7 million years ago before dinosaurs became extinct.

One of the most unique features of the Velafrons dino was its skull which distinguished it from other previously known types:

The composition of its skull — with a nose on top of its head and elongated nasal passages — meant its call was probably one of its most unique aspects, said Terry Gates, a Utah Museum of Natural History paleontologist who was part of a team of Mexican, American and Canadian experts involved with the excavation.

"They were like little trumpeters," he said. "This is totally odd and freakish."

Image- China Daily

Sources- Reuters, Xinhua, Associated Press

Follow-up: Venezuela cuts oil sales to ExxonMobil

The Venezuelan government announced on Tuesday that it would halt sales of crude oil to ExxonMobil. The decision comes roughly 48 hours after president Hugo Chavez threatened to stop all oil exports to the U.S. as retaliation for several court rulings in favor of the oil giant.

A communiqué issued by Venezuela’s state-run oil firm tried to explain why ExxonMobil was targeted:

“The legal actions carried out by the U.S. transnational are unnecessary ... and hostile,” PDVSA [Petroleos de Venezuela SA] said in the statement. It said it will honor any existing contracts it has with Exxon Mobil for joint investments abroad, but reserved the right to terminate them if permitted by the terms of the contracts.

In response to the announcement, the CEO of ConocoPhillips said that his company does “not intend to focus on the same path as ExxonMobil” by going to the courts.


Sources- Voice of America, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC,

U.S. scholar told to spy on Bolivia?

A Fulbright scholar who went to study in Bolivia claimed that a U.S. Embassy official told him to act like a spy. In declarations made last week, Alex van Schaick [image] said that the comments were made to him while he was in the Andean nation last November:

"I was told to provide the names, addresses and activities of any Venezuelan or Cuban doctors or field workers I come across during my time here," Fulbright scholar John Alexander van Schaick told in an interview in La Paz.

Van Schaick's account matches that of Peace Corps members and staff who claim that last July their entire group of new volunteers was instructed by the same U.S. Embassy official in Bolivia to report on Cuban and Venezuelan nationals…

According to van Schaick, the request for information gathering "surfaced casually" halfway through Cooper's 30-minute, one-on-one briefing, which initially dealt with helpful tips about life and security concerns in Bolivia.

"He said, 'We know the Venezuelans and Cubans are here, and we want to keep tabs on them,'" said van Schaick who recalls feeling "appalled" at the comment.

"I was in shock," van Schaick said. "My immediate thought was 'oh my God! Somebody from the U.S. Embassy just asked me to basically spy for the U.S. Embassy.'"

A State Department spokesman responded last Friday that if the official’s actions are true then that was a mistake which is against U.S. diplomatic policy. Yesterday, however, U.S. ambassador to Bolivia Philip S. Goldberg denied van Shaick’s allegations and said that he would be “ready to talk” with the Bolivian government.

The Morales administration hasn’t been pleased with the incident and has requested that the embassy official in question be sent back to the U.S.

Sources- Associated Press, MSNBC, CNN, ABC News, UPI

Image- MSNBC

Daily Headlines: February 12, 2008

* British junior foreign minister Kim Howells took a photo (image) with a Colombian army division accused of ties to paramilitaries. Diplomatic snafu or much to do about nothing?

* Former members of the Contras aren’t too happy with the Daniel Ortega-led Nicaraguan government.

* The “anti-Mexican or anti-immigrant perception of people” is the “worst thing” to happen to the U.S. according to a speech given by Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

* The Pew Research Center estimates that the number of Latinos residents in the U.S. will more than double to 29% in 2050 from 14% in 2005.

Sources- AFP. Wikipedia, MSNBC, Associated Press, International Herald Tribune

Image- Guardian UK (“Kim Howells with troops of the High Mountain Battalion of the Colombian Army including General Mario Montoya (behind him and left of Howells)”)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today's Video: Hillary 'hearts' hipsters

The following is not Latin America related per se, but I can't help but wonder if she's going to make a Spanish-language version where she's in a mariachi group or as a reggaetonera.

(Video link):

Source- YouTube

’09 Dakar Rally shifts to Southern Cone

The 2009 edition of the prestigious Dakar motor racing rally will be hosted by Chile and Argentina according to the event's organizers. The move came nearly a month after this year’s rally was cancelled due to a “terrorist risk" in Mauritania. Details of the course will be revealed Tuesday though AFP mentioned that the rally will cover over 5000 miles and start and finish in Buenos Aires.

Though the competition is expected to cross areas like the Atacama Desert, the Andes, and the Patagonia, the race's organizer said that the rally will return to the African continent:

Rally director Etienne Lavigne said that the Dakar was not leaving Africa for good.

"The Dakar is visiting South America, it's not quitting Africa. [The cancellation of Dakar 2008] cost us tens of millions of Euros but we did well to err on the side of caution because three weeks later there was another attack in the centre of Nouakchott," said Lavigne.

"In Argentina and Chile, we are guaranteed to find the ingredients that make up the spirit of the Dakar.

Image- The Telegraph

Sources- Reuters UK, AFP, The Telegraph, BBC Sport

IPS: L. American drug gangs create African “narco-state”

An article from Inter Press Service (IPS) and reported in The East African insinuates that Guinea-Bissau is becoming “the first African narco-state.” African according to the IPS piece, the grossly impoverished nation has become a safe haven for South American drug traffickers to smuggle their wares into the European market. The article notes that the country is on the verge of collapse:

“Today, Guinea-Bissau is literally fenced in. We must entertain no illusions: the state could collapse,” said Antonio Maria Costa, the head of UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), at the same time alleging that armed forces officers were suspected of collusion “and even involvement in drug trafficking.”

Costa maintains that South American traffickers chose Guinea-Bissau partly because of its convenient location in West Africa, but mainly because its authorities are incapable of combating organized crime.

He said that nearly all drug seizures have been carried out in international waters by European naval vessels, not by Guinean forces, which are not equipped to patrol the seas and airspace.

Costa warned about the growing use of Africa as drug smuggling routes in comments made last year. Several countries in western Africa have tried to unite their efforts in order to combat the drug trade though a spokesman for Nigeria's National Drug Law Enforcement Agency acknowledged that the traffickers “have enormous resources at their disposal".

Sources- Associated Press, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, The East African,

Image- U.S. Department of State

Chavez threat to U.S.: No oil for you

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has threatened to cut off all oil sales to the U.S. days after several international courts ruled that $12 billion in Venezuelan oil assets should be frozen. In statements made yesterday, Chavez did not mince words against ExxonMobil (the plaintiff in the trials) and the U.S. government:

"If you freeze them (the funds) and it hurts us, we are going to hurt you. Do you know how? We will not send any more petroleum to the United States. Take notes, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger," Chavez said in his weekly television and radio show, "Alo Presidente"…

Chavez called the clash with Exxon Mobil "the tip of an iceberg that is economic war."

Should the economic war break out, oil prices would reach 200 dollars a barrel, he said.

"And more than one other nation is willing to take our side in this economic war. You will not frighten or dissuade us," Chavez said, adding that Exxon Mobil was "a spearhead for imperialism."

The price of a barrel of crude oil fell in early morning trading today with the latest reports indicating that it has gone to below $92 per barrel.

The courts’ ruling last week may force a slowdown of the Venezuelan government’s nationalization plans for oil in that other major oil firms could join ExxonMobil’s lead. However, Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramirez claimed that the court orders were a “bluff” by Exxon and that business will continue.

Sources-, The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, AFP, Bloomberg, Christian Science Monitor,


Daily Headlines: February 11, 2008

* Congratulations to Calle 13, Pepe Aguilar, Juan Luis Guerra, and Los Tigres Del Norte (image) who were among the winners in last night’s 50th Annual Grammy Awards.

* 2007: Uruguay and Argentina argued over the construction of a paper mill being built along the border.
2008: Those two countries may clash over the construction of a new port.

* Could global warming be to blame for torrential rains and floods in Bolivia?

* Colombia’s FARC guerillas are going to release three more hostages according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

* Follow-up: The Brazilian government has submitted a new list of “safe” farms in order to convince the European Union to drop their ban on Brazilian beef.

Sources- Associated Press, The Latin Americanist, Mercopress, CNN, Bloomberg, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Image- New York Times (“Jorge Hernández of the Mexican-American band Los Tigres del Norte in the PBS documentary “Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side).”)